baby

"Probably a false alarm." For 7 hours, Kelly denied she was in labour.

When it comes to organisation, my partner Paul and I are like chalk and cheese. For a weekend away, he’ll print a comprehensive packing list and cross off every item as it’s packed. My approach is more casual – I throw bits into a bag, hope for the best, then wonder why I haven’t got a toothbrush or, indeed, any clothes.

The more significant the event, the more polarised our approaches become. Take the coming of our second child.

On our parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess Little Kids, hosts Leigh and Tegan chat with trainer Tiffiny Hall to hear her take on the ‘bounce back epidemic” for new mums. Post continues below.

My obstetrician, Dr Pip, had advised us that a second labour could be fast, and my partner – knowing that I tend to leave for a 10am appointment at 10.03am – was keen to avoid delivering the baby on the kitchen floor while trying to fend off a toddler. Quaintly, he wanted me to give birth in an actual hospital, surrounded by qualified health professionals and sterile machinery. To ensure that this happened, he’d drawn up an intricate action plan that we studied and refined from week 25.

At 9.5 months, in the early hours of one morning, I felt an inner niggle. After Googling labour symptoms for the millionth time, I decided it couldn’t possibly be labour pains. I mean, how could it be, so close to my due date, especially when the niggle felt exactly like the labour pains I felt with my first child?

Come sunrise, my little niggle had become larger, and I had to concede that it probably wasn’t last night’s lamb madras working its way through my duodenum. I mentioned the niggle to Paul and off went his adrenal glands – he was at the door with toddler under one arm, hospital bag under the other and action plan, ready to start actioning.

I, by contrast, couldn’t see what he was fussing about. Rather than waste time going to the maternity ward, I determined to knock off a few chores. So, I went out and, between contractions, filled up the petrol tank, got bread, hand soap and some ham. When I staggered breezily through the front door, Paul took one look at me and said, ‘Call your parents.’

The plan was for my parents to take care of our toddler while I gave birth, and as I spoke to Mum, I could feel Mr Action Plan’s eyes rolling skyward as I said things like ‘no rush’, ‘probably a false alarm’ and ‘Have you watched The Crown yet?’.

I’d barely put the phone down before my partner swept me into a waiting taxi. As we hovered in the hospital lobby, he asked for my parents’ ETA.

‘Don’t worry, they’re coming.’

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‘How far away are they?’

I texted Mum. ‘They haven’t left the house yet.’

My parents travelled the 30-odd kilometre emergency journey in a leisurely fashion, via bus, train and tram. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. When they eventually sauntered in, Paul sighed with relief, knowing that he had done his job – got me to the labour ward on time.

Well, almost. When we first arrived at the birthing suite, we were sent away. All the beds were in use, and a nurse instructed us to come back when my labour was more advanced. Oh, ok. Meanwhile, we could sit in my obstetrician’s waiting room.

This, I reflected, must have been how Mary and Joseph felt being turned away from various inns. Mind you, they ended up in a stable – at least the obstetrician’s waiting room had a couch. And an aquarium. Staring within, I noted that one of the fish looked a bit lethargic. Fin rot? Should I tell the receptionist? 

But then, Dr Pip summoned us to her office. I mounted the examination table with all the grace of a donkey.

‘Now, let’s see how far along you are,’ she said, snapping on the latex gloves. A long pause. Being thorough, no doubt. ‘Oh my God! You’re fully dilated: you could give birth right now in this office!

This wasn’t the birthing environment I had anticipated. Only 35mm of door separated me from a waiting room full of pregnant women. Surely my screams would be bad for business.

Kelly-Eng-pre-birth
Kelly, about to give birth. Image: Supplied.
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I didn’t have long to ponder the acoustics as a wheelchair appeared, a sheet was flung over my lower half and I was run through the waiting room, down the hallway, into the elevator and back to the birthing suite.

Onto the bed I rolled and the birthing team all focused on my crotch. Having people stare expectantly at your privates is always unnerving, so I tried to break the ice. We covered how I met Paul and workshopped potential baby names. Still no action. I was contemplating starting a game of Celebrity Heads when Pip decided that breaking my waters could move things along.

Move things along? As soon as my amniotic bubble burst, I was possessed. I had no control of either my lower half or my language. Push number one felt like I had to pass a Boeing 707. When the birthing team started talking in soothing tones, I knew that carnage was afoot.

And this pain! How many hours of it would I have to endure? The second push came and re-dipped me into hell. I tried to remember my pain management techniques – yes, a positive visualisation would help. Breathe the baby down! I told myself.

But it seemed the baby was already down. And out. At least, the head was, and she was babbling away to herself while the rest of her was wedged in the birth canal. Holy crap, there was a chattering baby between my legs. This was Alien crossed with Boss Baby and The Fast and the Furious.

Then the third and final monumental push and, voila, the baby was born.

Wait, back up. Did I just give birth in three pushes in under ten minutes? I lay rigid on the table in shock as my brain tried to catch up with my body. The slimy cherub was placed on my chest and everyone agreed that she looked like an Edith.

My partner wrestled with the rubbery umbilical cord. As he sprayed blood over Dr Pip's blouse, I could see him mentally completing the final row of his action plan. 

Healthy baby: tick.

Kelly Eng is a freelance writer and mother of two who likes to make people laugh. You can see more of her work at kellyeng.net

Feature image: Getty.


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